Rachel conceived of and operates the Hollywood Beauty Salon. She uses her own life experience to connect with — and advocate for — her clients. Rachel lived in a series of group homes as a child, in a program called “Kinship Care,” which placed her in unpredictable and unhealthy living situations. She is a survivor of violence and abuse. Rachel has been on her own since high school. She has fought to overcome depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety. Her commitment to recovery began when her daughter, Cadence, was born. Today, this working mother of three is a Recovery Guide and a Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner at the NHS Germantown Recovery Community. Her story anchors the film, just as she anchors the Hollywood Beauty Salon.

Inside the salon, Rachel acts as counselor, teacher, consumer advocate and hair stylist. Her flair for hair helps others feel good about their appearance, which she insists is key for recovery. Outside of the salon, she runs therapy groups and serves as a “guide on the side,” helping members learn how to take public transportation, find housing, and work their way through bureaucracies that can entangle people with mental illness as they try to secure essential services.

As inspiring and motivational as Rachel is, her recovery — like all recovery — is a process, and it’s not easy. She faces the same struggles of any working parent — childcare, financial stress, and relationship worries — in addition to maintaining her mental health. Every day is a delicate balance. In addition to her work at the beauty salon, Rachel is embarking on a new phase of her career: as a speaker to support groups outside of the city to share her story of struggle and trauma recovery in hopes of inspiring others.



Darlene is Rachel’s second in command at the Hollywood Beauty Salon. She grew up in West Philadelphia and suffered abuse by her first team of foster parents, who called her “foster child” instead of “Darlene.” She found a true and loving home with her second foster family, headed by Ms. Beatrice Daniels, but was left with many issues to resolve. Darlene was diagnosed with major depression and bipolar disorder. Her recovery journey includes struggles with an eating disorder and alcoholism. Today, she is a graduate of the NHS Germanton Recovery Community. She is a bold, dynamic, woman with a killer smile who designs and sells jewelry in addition to her work at the salon.


Sanetta is Rachel’s protégé and assistant. She grew up in New Jersey and moved to Philadelphia in 1973. She was married and is the mother of three children, whom she credits for her amazing hair-braiding skills. For much of her life, she was surrounded by violence. Her oldest brother was murdered, and her oldest son incarcerated. Sanetta maintains a beautiful appearance and works on recovering from schizophrenia. She lives with her youngest daughter and her grandchildren.


Edward’s dream of a career in music was interrupted by mental illness, though classical music is still his passion in life. He is recovering from cancer. In fact, Rachel spotted the tumor on his neck when cutting his hair at the Hollywood Beauty Salon. He was born in North Philadelphia, and now lives in West Oak Lane, in a Personal Care Home with seven housemates. He is a flute player and a faithful patron of the Philadelphia Orchestra. He suffers from paranoia and schizophrenia. His dream is to go back to school to earn his master’s degree in musical performance and teach.


Crystal can be heard coming down the hall before you see her: she sports wrists full of bracelets that jangle when she walks. She was born in New York City, but grew up in Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood. For most of her life, Crystal was depressed, isolated, and withdrawn. The friends that she has made at the NHS Germantown Recovery Community “brought me out,” and now she is a sensitive, vocal member of the community. Perhaps the most important relationship she’s developed is with her boyfriend, Anthony — a gentle, kind, and funny person who also receives treatment at Germantown Recovery Community. Crystal and Anthony are engaged to be married.


Anthony is a gentle, smart, funny man who prides himself on his clever puns. And though he is a quiet presence at the Hollywood Beauty Salon, he’s also a guiding spirit. Anthony provides the simple but powerful thought that “I am not my diagnosis, I am not my symptoms.” He definitely believes Anthony enjoys music, and dreams of a career as a DJ. He is engaged to Crystal, and they go out on Saturday nights and dance until they’re tired!



Rashida may have the biggest heart at the Hollywood Beauty Salon. And while she lives with paranoid schizophrenia, she faces her fears daily, all the while trying to help someone else. Her apple picking adventure (with her friend Paris) is a highpoint in the film. “Working with Paris was wonderful. I am a kind of role model for him,” Rashida says. “He looks up to me as his big sister in a way. Me and Paris were laughing and joking at first, and then we had to pick the apples. We cooked the apples for Miss Vernell, a recovery guide, and for some of my friends. It was very delicious. Rashida’s dream is to help people talk about their feelings, too. “Stigma is just a name. It’s not who you are, it‘s what you do about it.”